Construction on the £600 million Mersey gateway bridge will start in earnest next month following government agreeing to provide a financial back stop to the project funders if tolls fall below the expected level.
Financial close on the fixed price, Design, Build, Finance, Operate (DBFO) scheme is now expected shortly– following final approval from Parliament - to provide a one kilometre cable stayed, dual three lane crossing between Widnes and Runcorn with associated link roads totalling some 8.5 kilometres.
Preparatory works are already under way and around 500 construction jobs are expected to be created by the three and a half year project.
The DBFO contract was awarded to the Merseylink Consortium – including Kier, Spanish company FCC Construccion, Bilfinger Berger, Samsung and Australian investment bank Macquarie - in June 2013.
The design brief was to create an iconic structure to serve as a suitable ‘gateway’ to the region. The Flint & Neil designed bridge is a three monotower mast, four span design, with an in-situ cast, post-tensioned concrete box deck.
Government backing of contingent liabilities that might arise from a shortfall in tolls revenue was necessary because client Halton Borough Council was regarded as not having sufficient financial clout of its own to satisfy project funders. Cllr Rob Polhill, Leader of Halton Borough Council, said: “We welcome this re-confirmation as it reaffirms the UK Government’s support for the project, and it is good to see the Government continues to recognise the important contribution that Mersey Gateway can make to economic regeneration and growth.”
The existing Silver Jubilee Bridge will also be tolled as part of the project, which is expected to help create thousands of new civil and structural jobs, secure inward investment and deliver regeneration benefits.
Pictured: An artist's impression of the new bridge
Picture © 2011 Mersey Gateway Project